Mozambique Militants Kill Italian Nun And Other Christians (Worthy News In-Depth)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MAPUTO (Worthy News) – At least six people, most of them Christians, were beheaded, and an elderly Italian nun was shot dead by Islamic State group militants in northern Mozambique, Catholic sources and officials said Thursday.
President Filipe Nyusi said the Islamic militants began killing people in Nampula province.
They reportedly arrived in the area Tuesday after being forced to flee troops from Mozambique, Rwanda, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“On the 6th of September, due to terrorist attacks, six citizens were beheaded [and] three kidnapped. Six terrorists were captured and dozens of houses torched in the districts of Erati and Memba in Nampula province,” President Nyusi explained.
The nun among the victims was named 84-year-old Maria De Coppi of the Comboni Missionary Sisters group in Nacala city. She died when she was shot in the head by one or more attackers raiding her mission compound, said Catholics familiar with the situation.
The “terrorists raided the mission outpost and set fire to the Catholic church, the Sisters’ residence, the hospital, and their equipment,” Vatican News reported.
Two nuns, one Italian and another Spanish, and two priests managed to escape, according to Catholics familiar with the situation.
Sister Maria De Coppi, originally from the Veneto region in Italy, had served as a missionary in Mozambique since 1963, her church said.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of four Christians, including the Italian nun, during the raid on the area.
The group also claimed that its members burnt a church, several buildings, and two vehicles alongside other properties of a Christian mission in the area. Islamic State said the nun “went too far in spreading Christianity.”
The killings underscored broader concerns about the plight of Christians in the country of more than 33 million people.
While over half of the population of Mozambique claims to be Christians, devoted believers face difficulties, especially in the north of the nation.
In 2021, Mozambique was for the first time mentioned on the advocacy group Open Doors’ annual World Watch List (WWL) of 50 countries where it claims Christians suffer most for their faith.
“Islamic extremism is on the increase in Mozambique,” noted Open Doors, which ranked Mozambique 41 in the WWL, up for places from last year.
The extremism is “, particularly in the country’s north where so-called Islamic State-affiliated extremists use violence to spread their influence and control. Attacks by Islamic militants have claimed the lives of many believers,” the group added.
It noted that the “brutality of these groups has only increased” as “churches have been burned and tens of thousands of people displaced.”
Christians who manage to escape the violence often lose their livelihoods and possessions, according to Christian rights investigators.
In addition, “Christian women and girls in Mozambique face the possibility of sexual harassment, rape and forced marriage to Islamic militants. Muslim families who suspect a woman has converted to Christianity may attempt to force her to marry a Muslim man so that she can’t get involved in church activities,” Open Doors said.
Abduction is “increasingly used as a tool for violating religious freedom, and abducted Christian women often face forced labor and, or, forced marriage,” the charity added.
It also expressed concern about the “presence of drug cartels in some areas making the lives of Christians very difficult, especially church youth workers.”
The group cited Furaia, which isn’t her real name, as saying she had to watch when Islamic militants seized and killed her husband.
“The attackers rounded us up. I managed to hide in some of the tall grass. They did not see me, but I watched everything that was happening. I saw them tie up my husband. They cut his throat,” she recalled.
“I saw them kill my brother and some other men in the same way,” added Furaia, whose name was changed amid security fears.
It wasn’t just the men of Furaia’s Christian community who were targeted, though. “They finally left, taking with them my sisters and some other women,” Furaia reportedly said.
“I have not heard from any of them since. I do not know if they are alive or dead.”
Furaia now needs to care for her 14 children without her husband but said she was thankful to Christians supporting her with food and other essentials.
“I thank God for the help that arrived,” she said. “My children and I now have something to eat. Without this help, we would have starved.”
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